You would be a hypocrite

Arguments against gay marriage tend to fall into one of two groups: (1) the slippery slope group, which alleges that if gay marriage is permitted, all sorts of outrageous consequences will follow (such as the very Biblical polygamy or man-beast marriage); (2) question-begging Buckleyesque appeals to the natural order: gay marriage is contra naturam.  We saw one of those yesterday.  Somehow according to His Eminence Cardinal Rigali, opposite marriage is implied by the some kind of logical law.  Such is the power and strength of this logical law, that it has inspired calls to civil disobedience if such obvious contradictions are allowed to exist. 

Anyway, it's fun sometimes to look at things going the other way.  Perhaps some have heard that Karl Rove, champion of traditional marriage, has just been granted his second divorce (compare that to that other serial defender of traditional marriage, Newt Gingrich).  Rove's misfortune (such as it is–he may feel differently) prompted prominent blogger Glenn Greenwald to observe:

Karl Rove is an outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage, citing "5,000 years of understanding the institution of marriage" as his justification.  He also famously engineered multiple referenda to incorporate a ban on same-sex marriage into various states' constitutions in 2004 in order to ensure that so-called ""Christian conservatives" and "value voters" who believe in "traditional marriage laws" would turn out and help re-elect George W. Bush.  Yet, like so many of his like-minded pious comrades, Rove seems far better at preaching the virtues of "traditional marriage" to others and exploiting them for political gain than he does adhering to those principles in his own life.

So I wonder whether we have a case of the tu quoque here (and in other analogous places).  Rove has argued (however badly) for the legal exclusivity of "traditional" marriage yet at the same time, he has now been divorced twice.  Whether we have a case of the tu quoque–the ad hominem tu quoque that is–depends on Greenwald's conclusion.  It's obvious, of course, that Rove is a hypocrite.  He doesn't adhere to the principles of traditional marriage in the most traditional sense of it.  So here's what Greenwald is arguing:  

I've long thought that the solution to the cheap, cost-free moralizing that leads very upstanding people like Karl Rove to want to ban same-sex marriages (which they don't want to enter into themselves, and thus cost them nothing) is to have those same "principles" apply consistently to all marriage laws.  If Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Rush Limbaugh and their friends and followers actually were required by law to stay married to their wives — the way that "traditional marriage" was generally supposed to work — the movement to have our secular laws conform to "traditional marriage" principles would almost certainly die a quick, quiet and well-deserved death. 

So it's not that Rove is a hypocrite now that bothers Greenwald, it's that he would be a hypocrite if he (and Gingrich and Vitter and the rest of the them) were actually forced to chose the old school style of traditional marriage.  I think this might be an instance of the non fallacious subjunctive tu quoque: were situations different, and you were the object of this law, you would not support it.

11 thoughts on “You would be a hypocrite”

  1. John, maybe I'm missing something, but I think this is still a fallacious argument.
    Here is how I see Glen's argument:
    1) Karl Rove argues that "gay marriage" should not be allowed based on "5,000 years of understanding the institution of marriage".
    2) Karl Rove does not follow the traditional marriage (the assumption here is, of course, that in traditional marriage there are no separations/divorces)
    3) If the situations were different, and Karl Rove would be the object of the law, then Rove would not make his #1 argument anymore.

    Maybe I'm missing something, but where did Glen actually deal with Rove's argument? To me he is just changing the subject. It sounds like a classic tu quoque fallacy: Rove is guilty of the thing he argues against, therefore his argument is invalid.

  2. Hey BN, I think this is an instance of a non-fallacious ad hominem tu quoque argument.  In the first place, the subject is moral behavior, so what one does with oneself has some relevance.  Second, the conclusion of the argument is not that one's beliefs are false, it's that if one were in different shoes, one wouldn't have them.  In this case, if traditional marriage of the permanent variety (and the kind where daughters are property, etc.) were legally enforced, no one would support it.  I think this is a fair observation so long as the issue is consistency of one's believing–consistency of enforcement.  What I argue should hold for thee holds therefore for me.

  3. John, thanks for the explanation. I think I got it: you can't have fire without smoke; so you can't argue against fire, but be for the smoke … or something like that 🙂
    I think Glen summarizes this point well :"But if it is made clear to them that the principle they are embracing will, should and must abridge not just the marriage opportunities of gays but also their own divorce and marriage rights, perhaps they will pay a little more attention."
    Now, I think the form of the argument works and this is not a tu quoeue fallacy. However, I some other problems with his article:
    1) First off, Glen's view of Christian doctrine on marriage ("Once they are married, they have to stay married.")  might not be Rove's view of Christian doctrine on marriage. In fact, Glen's view of Christian doctrine on marriage is not prevalent among Christians. Glen in my opinion is guilty of a straw-man.
    2) In my opinion, Glen is guilty of the fallacy of equivocation: gay marriage is to Christian doctrine the same thing divorce is. Without going into a theological debate about marriage, based on Christian doctrine, there are grounds where divorce is not immoral (, whereas there are no grounds where any homosexual acts would be moral.

  4. I think he admits that there are disputes about what constitutes "traditional" marriage, but he maintains that arguments which rest on a concept of traditional marriage ought at least to be honest about the "5000-year tradition" they allege.  That wouldn't in any case be equivocation.

    On the morality point, this reminds me of something a roommate of mine said many years ago.  He was an actor, and he complained about gays getting parts because they slept with gay directors.  He found it immoral to do so.  When I asked him if he'd sleep with a straight (obviously female) director, he said he would have to do it to advance his career. 

  5. I think Glen's point is well taken. He is half-right, there is a double-standard when it comes to homosexuality and other "sins", whatever they might be.
    Now, I'm still missing Glen's big picture here. I would argue that the majority of people that actually oppose gay marriage based on their Christian beliefs also oppose " no-fault divorce laws" too.
    It is possible to agree with Rove and others on certain points (oppose gay marriage) but disagree with their lifestyle (divorce). Their hypocrisy is not necessarily shared by everyone who agrees with them on certain points. I think Glen is at best guilty of a hasty generalization.

  6. Hi John,
    I certainly see how this is a form of tu quoque, and I'm inclined to treat it as valid, but I'm unsure how it's really a form of subjunctive contrary to fact tu quoque.  Because the hypocrisy is actual, isn't it?  People who avail themselves of liberalized divorce laws (or thinks the wife is more than chattel) is actually breaking from the traditional and clearly odious conception of marriage.  And so they don't follow their own advice in maintaining it.   I suppose the thought experiment deepens the point, perhaps to say something along the lines: these folks are hypocrites, and if they themselves were held to the standards they profess, they would see how they would reject them, too. 
    I do wonder, though, whether this gotcha strategy is as argumentatively sound as we're inclined to think.  I suppose that someone along the natural law line could say something like: marriage is essentially an institution for procreation and sustenance of offspring.  Liberalizing divorce law and the treatment of women in the institution as autonomous is ancillary to the core of marriage, and so they can be changed without changing marriage as such.  But change the parts, it's different.  Given the depolyment of the terms, I'd think that 'traditional' marriage is really just a shorthand for 'heterosexual' marriage (i.e., with at least in principle possibility of offspring).

  7. I think his point is rather simple.  Few people would support traditional marriage if it meant they could not divorce, chose their own spouse, etc.  Those who would support it anyway, good for them, they're consistent.  That doesn't mean they're right (I think they aren't), but they're not guilty of inconsistency.  I don't think Greenwald is guilty of alleging everyone is guilty of that hyporcisy–just Rove and Gingrich (and everyone else who gets a divorce or cheats or whatever).

  8. Good points Scott (my comment was written before yours arrived), but Rove for the moment benefits from his ability not to have to chose between traditional marriage and divorce.  He's a hypocrite now, in virtue, I think, of the counter-factual.  The counter-factual is the evidence for his hypocrisy. 

    I think.

  9. "Texas, needless to say, is one of the states which has constitutionally barred same-sex marriages, and has a Governor who explicitly cites Christian dogma as the reason to support that provision, yet the overwhelming majority of Texan citizens make sure that there's nothing in the law making their own marriages binding or permanent — i.e., traditional. "
    How did he assert that? Overwhelming majority? This is what sounded to me like a hasty generalization.

  10. A hasty generalization, as you certainly know, is not the same as a general claim which is false.  Having said that, I bet most would support Texas's law as it stands. 

  11. While Rigali's argument might finish with petitio principii, it has a long tradition of being grounded in other problems.
    The topic here is that "marriage" between a man and woman is based in logic, tradition notwithstanding.  (Marriage the institution, marriage the unitive [togetherness], marriage the unitive [sexual], marriage the procreative [apart from the sexual]?  A bit of ambivalence here.) What we also don't know is how Figali defines "good of man". But if "good of man" presupposes procreation, then we certainly have a great deal of assumption to uncover.
    And if procreative "goods" & "good of man" are related to sexual "complementarity of husband and wife", then has its basis in naturalistic fallacy, which comprises modal fallacies of, at the very least, a fourth term—Going from an "is" to a "should": Because the plumbing *is* this, then it *should be* used for this (only). And if God only creates that which is good, then using the plumbing in accordance to its apparent design is good.
    But focusing on just the "sexual relations" component, what appears to make marriage good is the result.  This seems related to argument ad consequentiam.

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